Friday, November 1, 2013

Relationships: Verona Apartments, My View

Oakland Mills is not impressed.

Remember Blandair Park? Remember the neighbors who worried about what would happen only to have many of those fears come true? I wanted to believe nothing but the best about the coming park, but the truth is that concerns were addressed only after citizens resorted to angry meetings, name calling, and more. There were many, many missed opportunities leading up to that moment where the County failed to communicate, prevent, remediate.

What if you were a Village in Columbia and you saw that you only received significant attention if you exploded in anger? What would that teach you?

The information that stood out to me in CA Rep Alex Hekimian's most recent "Hot Topics" is that OMCA has retained an attorney to advise them in the matter of the County's purchase of the Verona Apartments. I am not on the village board these days, but I when I see that they are hiring an attorney I see people who feel that their legal rights may have been disregarded, or fear that their legal options are being curtailed.

If you feel that you have a good working relationship with someone, where there is honesty, trust, and cooperation, you don't usually hire an attorney. On the other hand, their are always some folks who love to take the adversarial approach, even if it might not be the best one.

Here is my question: did the County know what kind of pushback they would be facing from the community? The conversation I wish I had knowledge of would be the one where people sat around and said, "How do you think the community will feel about this?" And "What is the best way to deliver this information so that the community feels respected and included?"

I understand the confidentiality issues. But I keep feeling that a lot of what we are seeing is Oakland Mills feeling disrespected and voiceless. The truth may be that this is a great decision for Oakland Mills, Columbia, and Howard County. But right now we have an adversarial situation going on and I wonder if a better approach might have made a difference.

My friend and Councilman, Calvin Ball, gave me these encouraging words,

"We have a great opportunity from this point forward to do better! "

And that's true. We can only accept where we are right now and make the best choices to move forward. Talk, listen, visit the Verona, visit other similar sites where the County is involved. Are there other neighborhoods where a similar change has been made? What was the overall impact? Do citizens there feel that their concerns were respected and addressed?

I want to be open minded about this. I do believe that the Housing Commission operates with a goal of doing good. However, when it comes to building relationships? I'm not impressed.

Perhaps they should have checked our website. Oakland Mills: We Value Connections.



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